Comic Strip Documentary by Collins

CAVEMAN: V.T. HAMLIN & ALLEY OOP is a new documentary from Iowa novelist/filmmaker Max Allan Collins, best known as the writer of the graphic novel, ROAD TO PERDITION, which became an Academy Award-winning 2002 film starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman.

CAVEMAN, written and directed by Collins and produced by the University of Iowa Video Center, tells the story of Vincent T. Hamlin, the innovative cartoonist who created the dinosaur-laden, long-running comic strip, ALLEY OOP, from which the popular '50s song derived. The strip has been credited with inspiring everything from THE FLINTSTONES to JURASSIC PARK. Hamlin was born and raised in Perry, Iowa.

"My father grew up around Perry," Collins said, "and as a kid fascinated by comics, I was excited when I learned that OOP's creator had been brought up within a stone's throw of my dad."

The filmmaker began his work in 2001, travelling to the San Diego Comics convention to interview nationally prominent cartoonists.

"It did take almost four years," Collins said with a laugh, "in and around all of my own committments, and the Video Center's heavy workload at the U of I. But we made it happen. I'm particularly pleased that we were able to interview comics innovator, Will Eisner."

Eisner died early this year. Another cartoonist key to the project -- Dave Graue, Hamlin's longtime assistant who worked on ALLEY OOP for over fifty years -- was killed in an automobile accident just weeks after his trip to Iowa City to be interviewed for the documentary.

"The film is as much Dave's story as Hamlin's," Collins said. "I was intrigued by how much the story of Hamlin and Graue resembled that of DICK TRACY artist Chester Gould and his assistant Rick Fletcher, who drew TRACY for me when I took over that strip in 1977. I came to see that through the Hamlin/Graue story, viewers could understand the way comic strips in the 20th century were produced -- not just the mechanics of that process, but the personal story, the grueling work hours, the obsessive dedication, the daily struggle."

Collins's independent films include the Lifetime movie MOMMY, and the innovative made-for-DVD thriller, REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET. His previous award-winning documentary, MIKE HAMMER'S MICKEY SPILLANE, is included in Collins's recent anthology film, SHADES OF NOIR, due on DVD later this year.

CAVEMAN has already racked up several impressive honors, in April winning the Silver "Eddy" for BEST DOCUMENTARY at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival and, in May, four awards in the Iowa Motion Picture Association's annual competition, including BEST DIRECTOR for Collins and BEST VOICEOVER for narrator Michael Cornelison.

NOTE: The attached artwork, if used, should be credited: Artwork copyright 2005, Max Allan Collins. ALLEY OOP images copyright NEA Syndicate.